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Chavez backers clash with protesters in Venezuela

 A supporter of Venezuela's late President Hugo Chavez, left, argues with an anti-riot police officer who tries to block him from a group of oppositio...
 Opposition students shouts slogans against supporters of Venezuela's late President Hugo Chavez during a protest a few blocks from the electoral comm...
 Supporters of Venezuela's late President Hugo Chavez hold up a poster of him after they burned a banner that was grabbed from opposition student prot...
 Supporters of Venezuela's late President Hugo Chavez shout slogans against opposition student protesters, as police block them to separate the two gr...
 An opposition student protester gestures after injuring his left eye during a march toward the electoral commission, as he sits on the ground against...
 An opposition student protester carries and fellow protester after police launched tear gas during their march toward the electoral commission in dow...

Venezuela Student March

A supporter of Venezuela's late President Hugo Chavez, left, argues with an anti-riot police officer who tries to block him from a group of oppositio...

APTOPIX Venezuela Student March

Opposition students shouts slogans against supporters of Venezuela's late President Hugo Chavez during a protest a few blocks from the electoral comm...

APTOPIX Venezuela Student March

Supporters of Venezuela's late President Hugo Chavez hold up a poster of him after they burned a banner that was grabbed from opposition student prot...

Venezuela Student March

Supporters of Venezuela's late President Hugo Chavez shout slogans against opposition student protesters, as police block them to separate the two gr...

APTOPIX Venezuela Student March

An opposition student protester gestures after injuring his left eye during a march toward the electoral commission, as he sits on the ground against...

Venezuela Student March

An opposition student protester carries and fellow protester after police launched tear gas during their march toward the electoral commission in dow...

Supporters of the late President Hugo Chavez hurled rocks and bottles Thursday in an attack on student protesters who were marching against perceived bias by Venezuela's electoral council.
At least 10 students were reported injured in the violence that raised tensions in a country already sharply divided ahead of next month's presidential election.
Hundreds of students had gathered at a central plaza in the morning and were making their way to the electoral council headquarters in downtown Caracas when they came upon a police barricade.
About 100 Chavez supporters had gathered behind the barricade in the middle of broad Avenida Universidad and began throwing rocks and bottles at the approaching students. A few students lobbed the objects back, setting off a fierce volley between the two sides. At one point, several Chavez supporters pulled a student to the ground and repeatedly kicked him.
National police fired tear gas and scattered most of the students, but some 100 remained behind, left vulnerable to splinter groups of Chavez supporters who attacked from side streets. Police shooting plastic bullets ultimately repelled the attackers.
"The government supporters have ambushed us," student leader Vilcar Fernandez told The Associated Press.
It was unclear how many people in total had been injured, and police did not release an estimate.
At one point, about 100 students were trapped by Chavistas who had blocked all the surrounding streets, preventing them from leaving. Many of the attackers wore T-shirts bearing the image of the late president and were chanting pro-Chavez slogans.
Police later escorted the students out of the area.
"It wasn't our intention to confront or provoke violent acts, but the violence appeared because of minuscule groups that were sent to sabotage a legitimate protest," said student leader Gaby Arellano. She added that none of the students were seriously injured.
The election council sits in a neighborhood claimed by Chavez supporters, who have attacked anti-government demonstrations there in the past.
The protesters were demanding the electoral council eliminate requirements that voters have their fingerprints recorded before voting. The students also called on the council to stop Nicolas Maduro, the country's acting president, from seizing TV and radio airwaves to promote his candidacy.
Demonstrators further demanded the resignation of Defense Minister Diego Molero, who has publicly supported Maduro. The constitution forbids the military from taking sides in politics, although soldiers are permitted to vote.
Opposition candidate Henrique Capriles has strongly criticized the electoral council for failing to stop perceived government bias for Maduro ahead of the April 14 vote.
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Updated : 2021-05-08 16:33 GMT+08:00